The museum Dhondt-Dhaenens has a new residency: the Wunderkammer Residence. A fantastic artwork by Hans Op de Beeck, which also contains the private library of the late art pope Jan Hoet.
The Wunderkammer, also known in Deurle as ‘Villa Meander’, was built in the early thirties at the edges of the river Lys. Since the museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, that is located just behind the villa, will have to move the main entrance with time, they bought the cottage in 2006. But what to do with it? The museum already has experience with an artist-in-residence programme for the Van Wassenhove house of architect Juliaan Lampens. So, the choice fell upon a second residency.
The Wunderkammer Residence is a project of the Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck in collaboration with the Belgian architect Mo Vandenberghe of studio MOTO, winner of the design competition for the Brussels chip stalls. One thing is for sure, one who drives along the Pontstraat cannot ignore the striking black villa in the surrounding rural area.
So far, Hans Op de Beeck has always made monumental installations from scratch, among which ‘The Quiet View’ at the site of the abbey of Herkenrode. But here things were quite different. ‘Initially, the museum asked me to make an artwork of an existing villa. It was only later that they asked me to transform it into a residency,’ says the sympathetic artist. ‘We preserved the silhouette of the house. Just like the two walls that look like crab legs. But on the inside we stripped everything. There were a lot of rooms but all looked so dark. Instead, we added two columns and an old fashioned staircase that takes you to the second floor where a big window looks out on the river Lys.’
‘This is a special place. Because a lot of residencies are very similar or easily interchangeable,’ continues Op de Beeck, ‘The Wunderkammer on the other hand is difficult to compare with anything else. And there’s also the contact with the museum. Kara Walker’s work has been exhibited here, you hardly get a chance to see her in Europe. That’s incredible.’
Books from floor to ceiling
Upstairs there is the light, the vividly. Downstairs it is dark and mysterious. Here, you will find the book collection of the late art pope Jan Hoet. Or about 4.600 books. This is the Wunderkammer. Here, you don’t know where to look first. Floor to ceiling cabinets are filled with books and magnificent sculptures here and there, like the boy with a handful of raspberries. A cabinet decorated with shells, body cells, a candlestick, a fake Le Corbusier flat. But also ordinary things like an empty coke can. Or a mix of art and kitsch.
What makes me think of ‘The Collector’s House’ (2016), that also reflects the idea of the Wunderkammer. The first ‘Wunderkammern’ or cabinets of curiosities emerged in the Rennaissance. Kings collected all kinds of art objects to emphasize their status and to expand their knowledge. So did the wealthy bourgeoisie in the seventeenth century. Showing off their well-travelled lifestyle to visitors and friends in the ‘stateroom’ of the house.
The Collector’s House
‘As for the type of installation ‘The Collector’s House’ corresponds best with the Wunderkammer Residence. It is a bombastic reception room filled with a grand piano, a large courtyard with a water lily pond, all kinds of curiosities and a library. But the library is a fictional collection we do not know, and the house a fictional location of a collector who doesn’t exist. Here it is partly fictional and sculptural. For ‘The Collector’s House’ everything was made by hand. Each table, each chair is normally made in my studio. We have decided not to do that for the Wunderkammer Residence, if not it would have become an endless process. Here the table, the chair is changeable. In other words, there’s the temporary character: the books, the furniture, the guests will always change, which wasn’t the case in ‘The Collector’s House’.
Artists, researchers, writers, curators or creatives wanting to change the world are most welcome in the Wunderkammer Residence from 2019 onwards. The Wunderkammer will be opening its doors for the public simultaneously with the Biennial of Painting on July 1st. More information can be found here.